Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is readying for the Crimson Tide’s second straight BCS championship game appearance with some added ink. His chest tattoo created quite a stir on the blogosphere during the summer of 2011, and on Saturday it returned to the headlines.
McCarron announced this week that he would return to Alabama in 2013, regardless of the outcome of next month’s national championship game. The junior was a Heisman candidate midway through the season, but sputtered somewhat down the stretch. Two of his just three interceptions thrown on the season came in the Tide’s sole loss on Nov. 10 to Texas A&M.
He struggled in the SEC championship game, but threw the decisive touchdown on a long bomb to Amari Cooper.
Though his moment may not come until 2014, McCarron’s NFL potential is a plot line worth tracking against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s defense is loaded with pro potential, particularly up front. The Irish front seven features tackle Louis Nix, end Stephon Tuitt and linebackers Manti Te’o and Ishaq Williams. All should be chasing sizable professional checks soon.
Last season’s BCS championship game was a coming out of sorts for McCarron. Though he’d beaten out now-Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims for the starting job and manned the position all season, his showing against LSU’s ballyhooed defense was the first that really turned heads.
McCarron had seemingly taken a turn to elite level in 2012, but his struggles down the stretch cast some doubt. He’s a more-than-adequate game manager, but is that where it ends? In an ironic twist, while spread offenses become more prevalent, can a Pro Set quarterback garner the dreaded system player label?
Alabama has sent quarterbacks to the NFL in recent years: Brodie Croyle (a Mike Shula product), John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy were all on rosters in recent seasons. But none have had much, if any impact on Sundays.
The Notre Dame match-up should provide some insight into how prepared McCarron is to take that next step.